This story is by Max Good of AmazingRibs.com.
Gas grills are the first choice for most Americans, and have been for many years. Their appeal is clear: No need to get your hands dirty with charcoal and ashes, just hit the ignition and set your cooking temperature with the control knobs. (You can read about all the differences between gas and charcoal grills right here.) A recent survey by The Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) revealed that of the 70% of adults in the US who own a grill or smoker, 64% own gas grills. Manufacturers know you love 'em, so they keep rolling out new models year after year.
A dizzying array of gassers is available with prices from under $100 to over $20,000. To grab your attention, manufacturers of cheap grills often include bells and whistles like cut-rate sear burners, side burners, rotisseries, and lights to entice you to buy their flimsy, low-quality junkers, built with low-grade stainless steel and held together with crummy fasteners that will rust and break apart after a couple seasons.
If you buy a $200 grill and have to replace it every couple of years, you might find yourself a decade later having shelled out $1,000. For that amount, you could have bought a better grill that would outperform those rust buckets and last for decades. On the other hand, many folks just want a cheap, disposable grill that they can use until it gets nasty, then head off to the hardware store for a shiny, new, low-cost replacement. (Not that we condone such a wasteful approach.)
There's something for everyone in the vast gas grill market. People always ask me, "Max, what's the best gas grill? What should I buy? What would you buy if you were me?" Better to start by asking yourself, "How much do I want to spend and how big of a grill do I need?"
What to Look for In a Good Gas Grill
For most of us, price is one of our main priorities when choosing a new grill. You can get decent, low-cost equipment, but you have to be realistic: A $200 grill won't be as well made as a $1,000 grill. On the other hand, if you have room in your budget for premium or luxury grills, your expectations should shoot up along with the price tags.
Condo dwellers and campers may want small, portable grills, and there are plenty to choose from. For everyone else we recommend going as big as your patio and pocketbook allow. Even if you don't have a large family or host a lot of parties, bigger is better. For one thing, you don't want to crowd the grill. On top of that, most gas grills have a limited low temperature range, only going down to about 400°F even with all burners on low. So if you want to do a roast at moderate temperature or try your hand at low-and-slow pulled pork, you need a two-zone setup with some burners shut off to create a moderate, indirect zone with heat supplied by the lit burners and the meat on the opposite side. It’s an effective grilling technique, but it forces you to only cook on half your grill. That means a small, two-burner grill gets really small.
I recommend a minimum of three burners for flexibility and versatility, otherwise your grilling menu will be limited. And be sure to get a model with a lid—gas grills without lids are good for simple grilling, like cooking burgers over direct heat, not roasting chickens and turkeys.
Heat Flux vs. BTUs
Manufacturers tout the number of BTUs (British thermal units) their gas grills can produce, but that number can be very misleading. BTUs don't indicate how much useful cooking heat a grill generates; they just tell you how much fuel it burns. Naturally, larger grills with more burners will burn more fuel and have a higher BTU rating.
A much more useful indicator of a grill's searing power is heat flux,* which calculates BTUs per square inch by dividing the total BTUs of all the main burners by the square inches of the primary cooking surface. On average, heat flux for a gas grill is around 85 BTUs per square inch from the main burners, excluding additional sear, side, and rotisserie burners.
*Heat flux is something the manufacturers never tell you, so we've calculated it for you with each of our AmazingRibs.com gas grill reviews in our extensive searchable equipment database.
Whatever grill you choose, we cannot emphasize this enough: Pay no attention to the built-in dial thermometers. Those ancient bimetal heat estimators can be off by 50°F to 100°F. Furthermore, they're usually located in the lid, not down on the grill surface where the food is. Knowing the temperature there is useful only if you plan to eat the lid.
To achieve your backyard dreams, you absolutely need accurate digital thermometers, including both instant-read thermometers to get quick, accurate readings anywhere you want in a piece of meat, and probe thermometers, which can track the progress of cooking and sound an alarm when your target temp is reached.
Why You Should Trust Us
I've been reviewing grills and smokers full time since 2012. To my knowledge, nobody else does this full time, and nobody else has cooked on as many grills and smokers as I have. I assemble products, measure temperatures, slam lids, turn dials, kick casters, study warranties, take pictures, and cook a lot of food.
I also consider look, feel, functionality, durability, and price. Given the enormous variety of products and designs, there is no one-size-fits-all test. I cannot simply plug a cooker into a computer and measure its myriad qualities. My tests are both rigorous and thorough, objective and subjective. My overall goal is to provide useful and accurate information to help you select the best equipment for your needs. For additional detail on the many tests we run at AmazingRibs.com, read more about our testing procedures.
The cooking tests I use vary by the product in question. For example, I wouldn't test most smokers by trying to sear steaks because they're usually made for low and slow smoking, not high-temperature grilling. A gas grill that boasts its high-heat capabilities? On go the steaks.
For temperature tests, I use multi-channel digital thermometers with temperature probes clipped to the cooking surface. Gas grills often have uneven heat. When testing gas grills, I always spread bread slices across the cook surface, then flip them to reveal the heat profile. Bread slices that vary from white to brown to black across a grill's surface indicate uneven heat.
How We Picked Our Winners
For this review, I focused on the top-rated models from our AmazingRibs.com database of almost 600 searchable equipment reviews. The list below features grills with a range of features, priced from low to high.
The Best Gas Grill Under $300: Char-Griller Grillin' Pro Gas Grill
Low-cost gas grills are the instrument of choice for most residential outdoor cooks, so we’re always on the lookout for models that deliver a lot of bang for the buck. They are rare because, to restate the obvious, you usually get what you pay for. And apart from their Akorn Kamado, we have not been fans of Char-Griller products. However, Grillin’ Pro’s exceptional performance for a gas grill under $300 was a welcome surprise. Many gas grills, especially low cost models, can't produce high enough temperatures for effective searing. Not Grillin' Pro. We cranked this unassuming gasser way past 800°F to super sear steaks! You have to screw around removing the fold out warming rack to make room for a whole chicken, but you won’t need to do a thing to enjoy Grillin’ Pro’s pure power. Shoppers with realistic expectations looking for a gas grill in this price range would do well to consider Grillin’ Pro. It’s not built to last and will probably only provide a few years of optimal use, especially if it isn't covered and maintained, but it will out-sear any comparably priced gasser we know of.
Cooking Area: 390 square inches (about 19 burgers)
Heat Flux: 104.62 BTUs/square inch
The Best Affordable Gas Grill With Extras: Cuisinart 3-in-1 Stainless 5 Burner Gas Grill
Cuisinart's 3-in-1 Stainless 5 Burner Gas Grill is a pretty nice package deal for a pretty low price. It's called 3-in-1 because it's a gas grill that comes with a smoke tube and a cast iron griddle. When grilling, the heat profile of 3-in-1 is remarkably even and has an impressively high temperature range. The smoke tube, however, is nothing to get excited about. As with all gas grills, 3-in-1 is so well ventilated for safety reasons that the little bit of smoke from wood chips in the tube blows out the large opening in the back without much effect on the food. But the big, heavy cast iron griddle is an attractive extra. If you haven't tried outdoor griddling, you should. It's not just for bacon and eggs. Griddles excel at sizzling meat and veggies. Shrimp don't fall through the grates and griddles put a delicious brown finish on fish, burgers and chicken breasts.
This is a great gas grill for a nice price and the included cast iron griddle makes 3-in-1 a compelling choice. Just remember to keep the lid’s glass window clean. A little windex between uses does the trick.
Cooking Area: 442 square inches (about 21 burgers)
Heat Flux: 108.60 BTUs/square inch
The Best Gas Grill/Griddle Combo Under $500: Camp Chef Flat Top Grill 600
Sometimes you need a big surface area to cook a lot of food at once. Designed to feed a crowd fast and leave 'em smiling, the 600 is the most popular size in Camp Chef's Flat Top Grill line. While Cuisinart's model above is a gas grill with a griddle accessory, Camp Chef's is a griddle that converts to a gas grill. Remove the griddle top and underneath is a standard grill grate which lets you use Flat Top as a 4-burner gas grill. But you may end up leaving the griddle top in place. A solid metal cook surface like Flat Top's delivers intense conductive heat to food and produces an even, luscious brown crust, so you can make smashing smash burgers and fabulous fajitas. It has no lid for smoking and roasting, but you can still use the four burners to set up a hot direct zone and moderate indirect zone and griddle just about anything your heart desires.
Cooking Area: 600 square inches (about 29 burgers)
Heat Flux: 80.00 BTUs/square inch
The Best Gas Grill Under $1000: Weber Genesis II E-335
Genesis is one of the most popular gas grills in the USA. It’s easy to use, easy to clean, versatile, durable and backed by Weber’s excellent customer support. The basic models with an open cart and no sear burner work fine, but we highly recommend spending the extra money for models with a sear burner like the E-335. With all three main burners up high, we clocked E-335's temp at 680°F. Not bad at all, but crank the sear burner and you blast past 800°F for super searing!
Our main complaint for just about every grill is the obligatory, built-in heat estimator in the hood. These 19th century gauges placed up high in the lid are almost always highly inaccurate. It’s always better to use a modern, digital thermometer and position a temperature probe at the cooking surface. With their acquisition of iGrill Digital Thermometers, Weber is addressing this issue. Genesis II is “iGrill3 Ready” with a mounting location on the right side shelf for an optional iGrill 3 digital thermometer. iGrill let's you clip a probe to the grill surface to ensure you're cooking at the right temperature, and stick another probe into foods to monitor cooking progress. Download the iGrill app and keep an eye on what's happening under the hood from your smartphone. At the time of this writing, Weber is ready to roll out new models of Smart Grills that have this type of digital technology built-in.
Cooking Area: 513 square inches (about 25 burgers)
Heat Flux: 76.02 BTUs/square inch
The Best Splurge Gas Grill: Landmann Ardor 5-Burner Gas Grill
Now we're getting into the higher priced, luxury models, which are often used for expensive outdoor kitchens. This grill is the centerpiece of Landmann's premium modular outdoor kitchen system, allowing the owner to add such other elements as a separate side burner, a drawer unit, a double door set, and a rotisserie. They also offer an Ardor kitchen island with integrated worktop, allowing you to customize your own dream kitchen outdoors.
The burners feature Landmann’s Precision Temperature System (PTS+) which was German-engineered to distribute heat evenly and efficiently across the entire cooking surface. According to Landmann, the system works in part by increasing the fuel output of the outside burners and angling the heat shields slightly up in the front to promote heat distribution to the outside edges and front of the grill, which is where most grills experience a temperature drop.
With heavy duty, long lasting 304 grade stainless steel throughout, added attention to cleaning ease, and the powerful and even heat distribution and efficiency of the PTS+ system, the Landmann Professional Series Ardor 5-Burner Gas Grill with Cart fires on all cylinders. This grill delivers across the board—from low-and-slow BBQ ribs cooked using a 2-zone set-up and wings roasted over medium/medium-high heat to a whole chicken using the rotisserie and steaks seared over high heat. Lookin' great and cookin' great, Landmann took no shortcuts in the overall design and execution of this gasser.
Cooking Area: 662 square inches (about 32 burgers)
Heat Flux: 105.74 BTUs/square inch
The Best Luxury Gas Grill: Hestan Outdoor GMBR36-LP Gas Grill
If the $8,548 price of Hestan's superb GMBR36 gives you sticker shock, you're not alone. Like the Landmann model above, these luxurious models are often part of outdoor kitchen ensembles that can include super-powered side burners, refrigerators, sinks, and kegerators. You may be further surprised to learn that in the heady world of luxury outdoor kitchens, Hestan is by no means the most expensive.
We're very impressed with the engineering design, the workmanship, the functionality, and the durability of this grill, which is built entirely in Anaheim, CA. The powerful main burners are rated at 25,000 BTU apiece and can be swapped out with even more intense ceramic infrared burners. We tested a model with two standard burners and one infrared. The infrared burner produced a perfect all over dark mahogany sear on steaks and chops equal to a blazing, red hot charcoal grill!
We love the unique rotisserie, which has a burner located directly overhead, not on the rear as in most other grills. There is a cooking grate that can be placed below the rotisserie burner and it can be raised or lowered. Because the burner is overhead it can act as a broiler; this opens up a number of possible cooking techniques, like melting cheese toppings. The rotisserie motor and gears are completely hidden within the double walls of the grill so you don’t need to go looking for it when it is time to take a chicken for a spin. Just insert one end of the rotisserie spear into the drive and place the other on two steel wheels, press a button, and away you go.
The Hestan GMBR36-LP is one of the best gas grills we have tested and reviewed, and we've cooked on a multitude of gassers. We don't recommend taking out a second mortgage to bring this baby home, but if you've got the dough, the Hestan sure is a beaut!
Cooking Area: 647 square inches (about 31 burgers)
Heat Flux: 115.92 BTUs/square inch
Here are two contenders that fell short of our highest ratings, but are still worth consideration.
Huntington Cast Series 24025 Gas Grill: Looking for a gas grill on a tight budget? This Huntington is a throwback to the first cast aluminum gas grills, which began appearing in the early 1960s. The rust resistant, aluminum cookbox is attractive, retains heat, and distributes it evenly. But some parts, like the thin porcelain-coated wire cooking grates, explain the low, low price tag. Still, for $140, it is what it is. Many cheap gassers have a one year warranty or less. This model is warrantied for 10 years on all cast aluminum parts, 5 years on the stainless burner, and 2 years on all other parts. We like Huntington, which is owned by Canadian Onward Manufacturing, makers of several grill brands, including Broil King and Broil-Mate. This grill was originally sold under the Fiesta brand, another Onward Grill company. It's also sold under their Broil-Mate label. And, just for fun, Onward also sells an identical version as the Huntington 630014.
Otto Grill Original: The Otto Grill Original is one of a small but growing number of outdoor salamander grills emerging in the US market. Salamander grills apply intense heat from above to sear and brown food surfaces and have been used in various forms for hundreds of years. (When your waiter brings a sizzling plate and cautions "Careful, it's hot!" that plate likely came straight out of a salamander.) Otto is perfect for any thin food that cooks through fast, such as skirt steaks, fish fillets, shrimp, and veggies. Our tests and review demonstrate how it grills up these foods beautifully in the blink of an eye. It cooks blazingly fast, is a fantastic sear machine, and a useful pizza oven. We like the Otto Grill but have a few reservations. It has no problem hitting high, searing temps of 1,500°F, but lower temperature ranges are a challenge. The cooking grate can be raised and lowered with a lever on the right side, but even with the grate and two overhead infrared burners down low, we were still cooking hot at 450°F. Additionally, the burners had a tendency to blow out when turned all the way down. The $1,099 price tag will limit the appeal of this small, specialized grill. Some commercial salamanders are available in that price range and a couple manufacturers have introduced lower cost models for the residential market. That said, if the price is not prohibitive, this small, powerful, portable device is worth consideration. Otto is built for power and speed. Though not exactly a one trick pony, it seems best suited as a secondary, not primary, tool in your outdoor arsenal.
Gas Grill FAQ
What's the Difference Between a Gas Grill and a Charcoal Grill?
There are many differences! For a TL;DR, check out the chart below or read our in-depth guide about the differences between gas and charcoal grills right here. When it comes to price, it's easier to stick to a lower budget with a charcoal grill—you can even get a good one for $99. A good gas grill will set you back further. When it comes to quick cooking, a gas grill will serve you well, but if you prefer longer, slower cooks where you want that smoky charcoal flavor, charcoal grills are best. Temperature-wise, charcoal grills can get much, much hotter—up to 1,200 degrees. They also can help you achieve that low and slow temp, whereas a gas grill's range is more limited.
|Gas Grills||Charcoal Grills|
|Price||500+ for a good one||$99 and up|
|Flavor||Good for fast-cooking foods||Superior for slow cooks|
|Smoking||Hard to trap smoke||Built for smoking|
|Temp Range||Around 225°F to 600°F (with no infrared sear zone)||As low as you want to 1200°F and up|
|Temp Control||Very easy to set and maintain||Requires practice and constant attention|
|Fire Up/Cool Down Time||5 to 10 minutes||About 30 minutes|
|Clean Up||Occasionally emptying grease trap and cleaning bars||Regularly disposing of ash and cleaning bars|
P.S.: Want to improve the performance of your gas grill (no matter which model you choose)? Invest in a set of GrillGrates. They'll help you build significantly more heat and improve your searing ability, while also evening out gas grills' hot and cool spots. You can read Daniel's love letter to his GrillGrates right here.